Start a School

Friends of Choice in Urban Schools (FOCUS) is now the DC Charter School Alliance!

Please visit to learn about our new organization and to see the latest news and information related to DC charter schools.

The FOCUS DC website is online to see historic information, but is not actively updated.

The FOCUS Startup Program encompasses each stage of opening a charter school, from learning about the process to launching with a strong and successful first year.



Why work with FOCUS?

  • We have over 13 years of experience helping founding groups define their models and navigate the application process successfully
  • We know what it takes to get through the process  
  • We have a strong track record
    • 100% of applicants approved in the March application cycles from 2014-2018 participated in the FOCUS Application Consulting Program
    • Virtually all successful applicants since 2004 have used the FOCUS Guide to Starting a Public Charter School in the District of Columbia
  • We have strong partnerships with other organizations that ensure we can provide expert feedback on application drafts and answer design questions

The Startup Program includes:

Charter 101
Guidebook: Guide to Starting a Public Charter School in the District of Columbia
School Design Workshops
Application Consulting Program
Pre-Opening and First Year Support

  1. Charter 101

This free Charter Startup Seminar is open to the public. The seminar covers:

  • Public Charter School Overview
  • Explanation of Public Charter School Funding
  • Funding Sources
  • Forming a Founding Group
  • DCPCSB Application Process
  • Working with FOCUS
  • Question & Answer Period

The seminar takes place multiple times throughout the year. 

Registration required.

Before attending Charter 101 individuals interested in starting a charter school are encouraged to familiarize themselves with the Public Charter School Board’s Application Guidelines, which are available on the PCSB website here.

The PCSB also makes available successful and unsuccessful applications from previous application cycles. Click here to go to the PCSB application archive.

  1.  Guidebook

The FOCUS "Guide to Starting a Public Charter School in the District of Columbia," now in its 9th Edition (updated version coming soon), contains over 600 pages of guidance for completing the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) application. The Guidebook follows the PCSB application section by section, giving guidance on each required component as well as examples from successful charter applications.

Cost: $200 

To order a copy please contact 202-387-0405 or

  1. School Design Workshops

Any founding group may attend the School Design Workshops. The 2018 School Design Workshop Series begins September 26th and covers the following:

  • Standards, Curriculum, Assessment, and Literacy
  • Special Populations (English Language Learners and Special Education)
  • Developing Your Board
  • Accountability Goals
  • Business and Operations
  • Organizational Structure
  • Target Population and Needs Assessment
  • Legal Requirements
  • Facilities

Cost: $600 for up to three seats in each School Design Workshop. This fee also includes the Guide to Starting a Public Charter School in the District of Columbia.

Register Here

  1. Application Consulting

Each year, FOCUS partners with selected charter school founding groups or existing operators to help them prepare their charter school petitions and successfully navigate the post-approval startup year.  The Application Consulting Program builds on the School Design Workshop program; however, groups do not have to have participated in the design phase in order to be eligible.  The Application Consulting Program is a selective program, and not all applicants will be selected.  Selected groups sign a three-year agreement that encompasses both the Application Consulting Program and Pre-Opening and First Year Support.


Charter groups interested in participating in the Application Consulting Program are required to complete a brief application. FOCUS partners will have, in combination, all the skills necessary to create and run a successful charter school along with a willingness to devote substantial time and effort to the arduous task ahead.  Partners will also have strong writing skills and the willingness to fully cooperate with FOCUS staff and consultants.  

Apply Here

Application Consulting Services

FOCUS provides the following support to groups who have been selected into the Application Consulting Program:

  • One copy of the FOCUS Guide to Starting a Public Charter School in the District of Columbia (if not already received)
  • The FOCUS Charter Application Template
  • Extensive oral and written feedback on multiple drafts of each of the following documents:
    • Demonstrating the Need
    • Education Plan
    • Management Plan
    • Business Plan
  • One-on-one budget planning assistance
  • Intensive preparation for the DC Public Charter School Board (PCSB) capacity interview
  • Assistance with other issues as needed

Total Program Cost (3 years): $24,000


Cost Breakdown:

Application Development Phase: $12,000 upon contract execution (flexible payment terms available)

Pre-Opening and First Year Support: $12,000 (obligation not incurred unless charter application is conditionally approved)


  1. Pre-Opening and First Year Support

Pre-Opening Year Support

For groups that receive conditional approval by the DC PCSB, FOCUS provides the following support and assistance during the approximately 15 months from the time of conditional approval until the opening of a school:

  • Direction and assistance necessary to eliminate weaknesses identified by the PCSB and meet final charter approval conditions
  • One or more seats at all Pre-Opening workshops
  • One-on-one consulting on curriculum and other issues throughout the planning year        
  • Links and introductions to other community resources
  • Basic assistance to complete the Walton Family Foundation startup grant application and to secure OSSE charter school grant funds
  • Membership in a professional learning community of other charter leaders

First Year Support

Once a school has opened, FOCUS continues to provide support through the first school year. Services include:

  • Access to ongoing workshops
  • One-on-one consulting on issues throughout the year
  • Links and introductions to community resources
  • Membership in a professional learning community of other charter leaders
  • Assistance with first-year self-evaluation processes and strategic planning